Saturday, July 9, 2011

Book Review: Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman

Arcadia Falls: A Novel by Carol Goodman
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication date: March 2010
ISBN: 9780345497543
Source: ARC sent by publisher

Arcadia Falls: A Novel

Meg Rosenthal, along with her daughter Sally, is trying to make a fresh start, to escape the memories of her dead husband.  She accepts a teaching job at a secluded boarding school and hopes they will be able to adjust well.  But, when one of her students dies in a tragic and suspicious manner, she is about to discover there are deadly secrets at this seemingly quiet school.  And she and her daughter are caught up in the middle of it all.

Things I Liked:
The atmosphere of the book was perfect.  It was creepy and fairy tale-esque and kept reminding me of how gorgeous and mysterious nature can be.  I loved the aspects of the school's history that related to fairy tales and the mysterious veil that was spread across the whole place.  The story was pretty intriguing as well, near the end.  But what I think carries this book is the setting and the descriptions of the time, the location, etc, that make you feel like you are a part of this forgotten little corner of the world.  Goodman has a wonderful ability to create setting.  Here is a sample:

I look down at the sketchpad and see that Ivy St. Clare has perfectly caught the line of the girl's hip, the splay of her long legs, and the fall of her hair - all framed against the massive tree towering above her.  In the drawing though, there are other shapes sharing the lawn with her - hips and elbows and shoulder blades roiling just below the surface of the grass.  The image is so powerful that when I look back out the window I half-expect the scene to be suddenly populated by the artist's imaginary cohorts.  The lawn, of course, is empty, but now I see the origin of those underground figures.  The roots of the beech tree snake across the lawn here and there breaking the surface of the grass and then diving back underneath.  Once you look at the scene as the artist has drawn it, it's hard not to see them as bodies beneath the ground. p 24-25 of ARC
Things I Didn't Like:
I admit that, while the story did suck me in, the ending I found just a little too unbelievable.  I was struck with how convenient, how over the top, almost melodramatic it became.  I had a hard time buying into some of the revelations near the end and especially the motivations.  Still, an interesting and absorbing book.

A bit like The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

s-factor: !@
here and there

mrg-factor: XX
a few scenes, mostly implied stuff

v-factor: ->->
some mostly tame scenes

Overall rating: ***

Has anyone read other Goodman books? Are they all kind of similar or does she branch out more?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage


  1. You had me at boarding school. I just read another literary mystery set at a boarding school called The Twisted Thread and I loved it, so the atmosphere of this book sounds like just my thing.

  2. Well, the excerpt was intriguing but I hate big endings that are so over the top and unbelievable that you raise your eyebrows.

  3. I read The Drowning Tree also by Goodman last summer. Review here if you're interested... http://windowseatreader.blogspot.com/2010/07/review-drowning-tree_26.html Like you, I remember growing weary of some of the drama, and there were a couple of romance plots that I didn't exactly enjoy. Still, it sounds like her books have a good creepy factor that I am drawn to :)

  4. I didn't like this one very much although I really liked The Lake of Dead Languages. For some reason she seems to feel forgettable to me in a way that Tana French, for instance, does not.

  5. reviewsbylola, it definitely has some awesome atmosphere.

    Jenny, you might want to avoid this one then. Though the atmosphere is delightful.

    Bailey, I liked your review, though it sounds a LOT like the plot of this one, with a similarly excellent setting and creepy feel. Not sure I need to pick up another Goodman at this point.

    Caitlin, perhaps I'll give Lake of Dead Languages a chance. I've not read any Tana French, though, so I can't follow your comparison :)


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